From the Shelf
'We All Act All the Time'
"For the sitting king, the play isn't called Macbeth, it's called Duncan. For the heir it's Malcolm; and for The Porter it's, well, it's whatever his name is, which wasn't even dignified with a mention in the script," Dessa writes in My Own Devices: True Stories from the Road on Music, Science and Senseless Love (Dutton).
Maybe it's because we haven't been able to go to films, plays or concerts for more than a year that I've been reading more books connected to the performing arts. And those words from rapper, singer/ songwriter and essayist Dessa offer welcome perspective for these strange times. We are who, and where, we are. During the pandemic, I've missed being in live audiences, though I do rely on Zoomlandia (in all its variations) when I need a digital hit, especially if the event is connected to a recent favorite read.
Virtual performance highlights have included Hermione Lee, author of Tom Stoppard: A Life (Knopf), interviewing the legendary playwright. Of Stoppard's play Rock 'n Roll, which I saw on Broadway in 2008, Lee writes that "he always disliked the idea of writing about himself, and he moved the play away from being his own alternative life story: as he put it, 'the degree of self-referential conceit got to me.' "
After reading André Gregory's This Is Not My Memoir (FSG), I was in the digital audience for his delightful and insightful conversation with actress Cynthia Nixon. Gregory's book offers a peek behind the curtain at his decades-long collaboration with Wally Shawn, serving up tidbits like: "In My Dinner with André, there is an André who believes and a Wally who never will. The film needs both to exist. Probably we all do."
And then there was a brilliant, funny poignant conversation I "attended" between author Colum McCann and actor Gabriel Byrne, whose compelling memoir Walking with Ghosts (Grove Press) is a must-read. "We all act all the time," he writes. "Life makes us necessary deceivers. Except when we are alone." --Robert Gray, editor, Shelf Awareness
In this Issue...
This enthralling history explores the life of Archdeacon Stuck, the leader, in 1913, of the first expedition to climb Denali.
by Jennifer Ryan
In this expertly crafted novel set during the Second World War, a BBC radio cooking contest brings together four very different but equally determined women.
by Adam Perry
In this thrilling, genre-jumping novel, 10-year-old Oliver is transported into the world of his favorite book to save the story from those who would steal it.
Review by Subjects:
From Fountain Bookstore
05/16/2021 - 10:00AMPurchase of book from Fountain either in the book, ebook, or Libro.fm audiobook is required. Young Adult (or YA for short) is a very diverse and exciting genre. Our book club is subtitled Adults Who Read YA, so this group is open for those 18+ years old. Email the store to join and to get meeting directions. By attending you agree to our Code of Conduct: Our event provides a harassment-free experience for everyone, regardless of gender, gender identity and expression,...
05/17/2021 - 6:30PMPurchase of book from Fountain either in paper, ebook, or audio is required. Fountain of Evidence features discussions on books in the popular true crime genre, but may occasionally read fiction based on true crimes. Ages 21+ only. Email the store to join and to get meeting directions. By attending you agree to our Code of Conduct: Our event provides a harassment-free experience for everyone, regardless of gender, gender identity and expression, age, sexual...
05/19/2021 - 2:00PMRooted in pathos and told in Sendker’s signature gentle style, THE HEART REMEMBERS is, at its core, a novel about love’s ability to unify us in the face of hardship. Written from the alternating perspectives of Julia’s estranged son, an empathic 12-year-old named Ko Bo Bo, and her brother, U Ba, Ko Bo Bo’s uncle and caretaker, THE HEART REMEMBERS delves into Julia’s enigmatic past and the personal and political events that fractured her family. Hosted by the owner of Fountain Bookstore...
05/20/2021 - 7:00PMGET TICKETS HERE Join the Friends of the Chesterfield County Public Library on May 20 as they celebrate their 50th anniversary with a virtual visit from Nick Bruel, author of the Bad Kitty series. Bruel, a New York Times bestselling author and illustrator of both picture and chapter books, will highlight his soon-to-be-published Bedtime for Bad Kitty, a picture book for young children or anyone who has resisted bedtime with the same determined ferocity as Bad Kitty....
05/20/2021 - 2:00PMThreat management expert Spencer Coursen shares lessons learned from his decades of global experience as a combat veteran, supervisory special agent, and private security professional to help you avoid life’s most common “safety traps” which often hide behind our own false sense of security — because sometimes feeling safe, is the most dangerous thing we do. Hosted by Fountain Bookstore owner Kelly Justice. Spencer Coursen is a nationally recognized threat management...
Writers Who Loved Cats
Mental Floss chased down "13 writers who really loved cats."
Artist Phil Shaw's work Shelf Isolation "arranges a series of genuine book titles... so that when you read them in order... they spell out an unexpected narrative."
In Dresden, Germany, "Slaughterhouse Five opens its dank doors to fans of Kurt Vonnegut."
Open Culture noted that "4,000 priceless scrolls, texts & papers from the University of Tokyo have been digitized & put online."
Bookshelf featured Charles I's travelling library, which was acquired by the British Library through a bequest.
Rediscover: Norton Juster
Norton Juster, "who wrote one of children's literature's most beloved and enduring books, The Phantom Tollbooth," died March 8 at age 91, the New York Times reported. First published in 1961, The Phantom Tollbooth was illustrated by the man Juster shared a duplex with at the time, Jules Feiffer, who was early in his career as a cartoonist and author. The book has sold almost four million copies, been reissued multiple times and was adapted into an animated film and a stage musical. An architect, Juster described himself as an "accidental writer." Among the projects his company, Juster Pope Frazier, designed was the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Mass.
In addition to reuniting with Feiffer in 2010 on The Odious Ogre, Juster's other children's titles include The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics, which was adapted into a 1965 Oscar-winning animated short; Alberic the Wise and Other Journeys, illustrated by Domenico Gnoli; As Silly as Knees, as Busy as Bees: An Astounding Assortment of Similes, illustrated by David Small; and The Hello, Goodbye Window with Chris Raschka. In a 2012 CNN interview, Juster talked about the key to writing for young readers: "You have to retain, I guess, a good piece of the way you thought as a child. I think if you lose all of that, that's where the deadliness comes from. The idea of children looking at things differently is a precious thing. The most important thing you can do is notice."
The Writer's Life
Reading with... Cherie S.A. Jones
|photo: Brooks LaTouche|
Cherie S.A. Jones, a lawyer in Barbados, won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize in 1999. Her stories have been published in PANK, Cadenza, Eclectica, the Feminist Wire and broadcast on BBC Radio 4. She received a fellowship from the Vermont Studio Centre and her MA from Sheffield Hallam University, where she won the Archie Markham Award and the A.M. Heath Prize. How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House (Little, Brown), set in Barbados, is her first novel.
On your nightstand now:
90, a book of poems by Kevin Devaney. I met Kevin when he visited Barbados and was hosted by Limegrove Lifestyle Centre, and I bought one of his beautifully bound chapbooks. I used to write poems (badly!) when I was much younger, and now I relish beautiful poetry because I know how hard it is to do well! I do not swallow poems whole. I savor them in small bites and a chapbook can take me several months to get through.
I never have just one book on my nightstand, though! Currently I'm also reading Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo and The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré. I feel a little late to the party with these two books, I've heard so many good things, and I'm enjoying them both immensely.
Favorite book when you were a child:
When I was very young, it was the Secret Seven series by Enid Blyton. I remember literally falling off a chair when the crew solved one of the mysteries in the series, I was that absorbed in the story. When I started secondary school, I read The Chrysalids by John Wyndham and it changed my life. It taught me that there's no such thing as "normal"--everything that is is normal--and if differences exist they are to be celebrated (provided no-one else is being hurt). I've been a very happy Fringe-dweller ever since then!
Your top five authors:
V.S. Naipaul--Miguel Street is one of my absolute favourite books of all time. I admire Naipaul for the strength and subtly of his early work.
Earl Lovelace--The Wine of Astonishment was required reading at school and I have re-read and enjoyed this book so many times, I've lost count. I love his sense of (Caribbean) place and people.
Chimamanda Adichie--I love everything Adiche, fiction and otherwise. I admire her work and her quiet, thoughtful, incisive intelligence.
Toni Morrison--Beloved moved me deeply and woke me up in so many ways, as did Song of Solomon. I adore Morrison's work and her dignity in writing about difficult things.
Jamaica Kincaid--I consider Jamaica Kincaid a real regal badass and the queen of revolutionary Caribbean writing, in both subject matter and style. I was a different person after I read Annie John.
Book you've faked reading:
I've never faked reading a book!! If I've encountered books I don't like, I don't finish them, but does watching the movie of King Lear (instead of reading the play) for A-Level English exams count?
Book you're an evangelist for:
Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry by Leanne Shapton. I never looked at writing a novel the same after I read this book! It is pure genius in form and style and a prime example of how much can be said by not saying.
Book you've bought for the cover:
A Thousand Years of Good Prayers by Yiyun Li. This book was actually on the booklist when I did my MA at Sheffield Hallam University, but unlike some of the others, which I was fine to borrow from the library, I bought my own copy of this to keep--the cover is gorgeous!
Book you hid from your parents:
When I was much, much younger than any child should be allowed to read V.C. Andrews, I got a copy of Flowers in the Attic from a schoolmate and smuggled it home, where I happily devoured it in several lengthy trips to the toilet.
Book that changed your life:
Do I have to choose just one? There are so many! The Chrysalids by John Wyndham and Banana Bottom by Claude McKay are definitely on that list, but so is every other book I've talked about here and hundreds of others I haven't!
Favorite line from a book:
It's actually a few lines from a poem "Poem for the Breasts" by Sharon Olds. For over a year her book Stag's Leap was the poetry collection I kept returning to, and it remains one of my favorites. These lines spoke to me at a visceral level, and I wrote a flash fiction piece called "Mammaries" which was inspired by them:
And some men loved them the way one would want oneself to be loved
All year they have been calling to my husband,
Singing to him, like a pair of soaking sirens on a scaled rock,
They cannot believe he could leave them
My micro-fiction story starts with the main character's breasts running away to rejoin her husband.
Five books you'll never part with:
Miguel Street by V.S. Naipaul: I have at least three copies of this book, the latter two were bought in a panic, thinking I'd lost the first one.
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys: I'm fascinated by "madness" and this book explored it wonderfully.
My grandmother's Bible: it has her handwritten notes of her grandchildren's births and her observations on various bible verses. I was extremely close to my granny up to her death in 1992, and she's one of the ancestors I remain closest to, to this day. Having her Bible is a gift and it travels everywhere with me.
NW by Zadie Smith: In terms of content I loved her portrayal of immigrant experience and in terms of style, it contains one of the best contemporary examples of writing in the first person plural.
The Peerage Books compilation of the work of Oscar Wilde, including The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Complete Short Stories and The Importance of Being Earnest and Other Plays: it was presented to me for good work in A-Level English exams by my secondary school in 1991--that copy is almost 30 years old and I still treasure it!
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
There's more than one of these as well: The Girl in the Flammable Skirt by Aimee Bender for its sheer inventiveness, imagination and skillful storytelling.
My Mother Was an Upright Piano by Tania Hershman. Reading this was my first example of the supreme skill required for good flash and started my exploration of the genre, it opened up a whole new world in my writing practice.
Animal Farm by George Orwell. The first time I read this book it was my Dad's copy, when I was still a teenager. It opened up my political thinking in a new way and I examined authority and social systems and ideals much more critically after that.
Only Animal Farm is still in my possession. I gifted the others to friends when moving back to Barbados to spare myself shipping charges. I know I'll be buying them again.
The Kitchen Front
by Jennifer Ryan
Boy, do the contestants on The Great British Bake Off have it easy. In Jennifer Ryan's beautifully executed novel The Kitchen Front, the four Englishwomen competing in a BBC radio cooking contest during the summer of 1942 must cope with Nazi bombers flying overhead, a scarcity of ingredients and rigidly defined gender roles.
The women, who are vying to become the show's cohost, are as different as their reasons for competing, which become clear as the novel's point of view roves from contestant to contestant. Audrey, a recent war widow and mother of three, is barely getting by with her small baking business. She's up against (and in financial debt to) her sister, the self-important Lady Gwendoline Strickland, who suffers the indignity of competing against her own skittish young kitchen maid, Nell. The fourth contestant is Zelda, who misses no opportunity to boast that before "four hundred pounds of Nazi cordite" demolished the Dartington Hotel, she was its deputy head chef--a job for which, as a woman, she had to fight mightily. An aspect of her life that the unmarried Zelda isn't broadcasting: she's pregnant.
With The Kitchen Front, Ryan (The Chilbury Ladies' Choir) delivers a scrupulously researched entertainment full of unexpectedly scintillating discussions about wartime food strictures and substitutions. There are few stiff upper lips on view in the novel, which frequently takes maudlin turns. If readers want to cry into some elderberry wine, they can follow the recipe provided--one of 20 period recipes scattered throughout the book. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer
Discover: In this expertly crafted novel set during the Second World War, a BBC radio cooking contest brings together four very different but equally determined women.
The Windsor Knot
by SJ Bennett
Queen Elizabeth II... a super-sleuth? In the vivid imagination of British author SJ Bennett (aka YA author Sophia Bennett), Her Royal Majesty becomes swept up in a possible murder investigation at Windsor Castle. This clever fictional premise humorously plays out with grand appeal.
The first in a proposed series, The Windsor Knot commences in April 2016, as 89-year-old Queen Elizabeth II takes in "an almost perfect spring day" in the bucolic countryside on the grounds of Windsor Castle. The night before, Prince Charles had gathered a who's who of high-profile overnight guests to "curry favor with some rich Russians for one of his pet projects." At the soiree, a performer--a good-looking Russian pianist in his early 20s--"played Rachmaninoff like a dream" and even danced with the Queen. The next morning, however, the young musician is found dead in his bedroom. At first, it appears that he died in his sleep. But at breakfast, banter among the guests sheds new light. There's talk that ladies' underwear and lipstick were found near the man's nude corpse, "strung up like a Tory MP" near his bedside. Foul play? Suicide?
While professional detectives work the case, Queen Elizabeth enlists the help of her loyal private secretary, Rozie Oshodi, who assists as the tenacious, resolute Queen secretly investigates the murder on her own. Bennett portrays the perceptive, resourceful Queen with great wit and affection, and a well-drawn supporting cast further enlivens a fast-moving, spirited and suspenseful plot. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines
Discover: In a witty, clever mystery, Queen Elizabeth II secretly unravels details of a possible murder at Windsor Castle.
The Diabolical Bones
by Bella Ellis
In The Diabolical Bones, an atmospheric mystery set in 19th-century Yorkshire, the three Brontë sisters are drawn into the investigation of a set of bones. Charlotte, Emily and Anne usually spend a great deal of their time writing in the Haworth parsonage, hoping one day to be published--but they also like to turn their hand to detecting from time to time.
Isolated from the rest of the village of Haworth is a large house called Top Withens, where the Bradshaws live. The village gossips swear Clifton Bradshaw made a deal with the devil in his youth, so they are unsurprised to hear that he has found the skeleton of a child hidden in the chimney of his late wife's bedroom. The Brontë sisters are appalled, so they intervene, seeking an immediate Christian burial for the bones. They also hope to learn the child's identity, but Bradshaw insists that he has no idea how the bones got into the room, which has been locked for the 13 years since his wife's death. Determined to discover the truth, the sisters begin an investigation that grows ever more haunting.
Bella Ellis (The Vanished Bride) does a delightful job of weaving true incidents from the Brontës' lives into the case, and implying that Emily got the inspiration for Wuthering Heights from incidents at Top Withens. Cleverly written, The Diabolical Bones is a wonderful historical mystery, sure to appeal to mystery readers, history lovers and Brontë aficionados alike. --Jessica Howard, bookseller at Bookmans, Tucson, Ariz.
Discover: In this haunting historical mystery, the Brontë sisters investigate the discovery of a child's skeleton.
by Marcia Butler
The intense and vivid ensnaring of a pregnant moose sets in motion a chain of events that highlights Marcia Butler's shining character work in Oslo, Maine. Relationships are at the forefront in a town where news travels swiftly and secrets are hard kept. Husbands and wives, parents and children, neighbors and friends intertwine with the doomed moose, one of the novel's briefest but most poignant narrators.
Twelve-year-old Pierre Roy suffers severe memory loss following an encounter with the trapped moose. His injury puts additional stress on his parents, Claude and Celine, who now "fling synonyms at each other" over what kind of boy Pierre is. Man's man Claude, already eaten alive by Pierre's disturbing love of books ("They'd abducted his son with stealth and breathtaking speed from the day he'd started kindergarten"), becomes more despondent when Pierre finds solace in violin lessons and the crevasse between Claude and Celine widens.
Neighbors Sandra and Jim, professional musicians, have issues and secrets of their own. Sandra is not only teaching Pierre but doing much of the housework while at Pierre's since Celine is adrift in a haze of drugs. The more Sandra helps, the closer things come to spinning out of everyone's control. Butler (Pickle's Progress) writes beautifully and with depth, each character mined for internal gems. Story is secondary, and while some plot arcs are dropped and the rest are tied up a bit too abruptly in an epilogue, the personalities that occupy Oslo, Maine are sufficiently intriguing to buoy this peculiarly engrossing tale. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review
Discover: After a young boy is injured, the fraught lives of several small-town citizens become problematically intertwined.
The Fourth Child
by Jessica Winter
Jessica Winter's The Fourth Child is an accomplished follow-up to her debut, Break in Case of an Emergency. It follows a mother and daughter through the difficult adoption of the family's fourth child. Jane Brennan's aspirations to earn a degree in child development are cut short when she becomes pregnant in high school. Years later, Jane has married her quick-to-anger high school boyfriend and is raising three children: Lauren (the oldest) and two sons. Still searching for meaning, Jane adopts Mirela, a traumatized Romanian toddler. While Jane becomes more involved in pro-life protests and in finding the correct care for Mirela, Lauren falls under the influence of her controlling drama teacher, Ted Smith. As Lauren's relationship with Ted escalates, Jane soon cannot ignore what is happening to her oldest daughter while her youngest daughter remains in crisis.
Distinct but equally insightful, both Jane's and Lauren's perspectives shine in this story of adolescent yearnings, motherly devotion and what it means to be beholden to others. In confronting topical controversies such as international adoption, Catholic conservatism, abortion and underaged consent, The Fourth Child develops its nuanced characters in a way that offers more questions than answers. Where Jane's narrative is deliberately paced, exacting and filled with longing, Lauren's is intense, compulsive and sometimes haunting. Together, they present a mother-daughter relationship that is both troubled and loving, enduring yet vulnerable. Rather than becoming caricatures of mother-daughter stereotypes, both women emerge as individuals caught in a net of complex relations who understand, perhaps too well, the roles they are meant to perform. --Alice Martin, freelance writer and editor
Discover: The Fourth Child is an emotionally evocative, timely and sensitive look at the complex interactions between mothers and daughters.
Mystery & Thriller
Every Last Fear
by Alex Finlay
New York University student Matt Pine thought he had a terrible night when his girlfriend dumped him, until FBI agents show up to give him even worse news: his family has been found dead in Tulum, Mexico. His dad, mom, kid sister and six-year-old brother--all gone. With no signs of struggles, the scene appears to show the family perished in an accidental gas leak, but is it too neatly staged? And what were the Pines doing in Mexico anyway? These are the questions posed at the start of Alex Finlay's riveting Every Last Fear.
The only other surviving member of Matt's immediate family is his older brother, Danny, who's in prison for a murder made famous by a Netflix documentary. Matt is now the only Pine left who can uncover the truth about his family's demise, which may be linked to the killing Danny was convicted of seven years earlier. Before long, Matt learns someone is trying to terminate him, too.
The pseudonymous Finlay propels his plot forward with tight prose and well-timed revelations, from both after and before the Pines' deaths in Mexico. The Before chapters are told from the viewpoints of Evan, Matt's father; his mother, Liv; and his sister, Maggie, allowing readers to get to know Matt's family and feel the weight of his loss. The identity of the villain will likely not surprise crime fiction fans, and a subplot about a mob syndicate is unnecessary, but Every Last Fear provides satisfying character development while maintaining a breakneck pace. --Elyse Dinh-McCrillis, blogger at Pop Culture Nerd
Discover: A college student delves into the shocking deaths of his family in Mexico, while trying to avoid being killed himself in this fast-paced thriller.
Last Call: A True Story of Love, Lust, and Murder in Queer New York
by Elon Green
For gay men in New York City, the 1990s were an era complicated by greater visibility in liberation, higher mortality from AIDS and anti-queer violent crime that still benefited from the insidious "gay panic" defense. Amid this milieu, another, more lurid threat flirted with the denizens of Midtown piano bars: a serial killer. Journalist Elon Green stumbled upon the story in a search engine misfire and followed the grisly trail to assemble the haunting true-crime account Last Call: A True Story of Love, Lust, and Murder in Queer New York.
The dismembered bodies began surfacing by accident in 1991--in a trash bag in Pennsylvania, another in New Jersey, another in New York's Rockland County. Had the discoveries not been so similarly gruesome, Green observes, the detectives might not have connected the crimes outside their respective jurisdictions.
Green is a considerate chronicler of the times and does due diligence to place these shocking deaths within the context of more commonplace violence against queer people. He also crafts moving portraits of the murder victims while underscoring the arc of the AIDS epidemic, the numerous lives lost to it and the tragedy of those whose stories are left untold. The criminal investigation, though, ends with rather unsatisfying omissions, a conclusion perhaps to be expected after a decade of policing fumbles and the killer's refusal of Green's interview requests. A mountain of evidence landed a conviction in 2005, but the perpetrator's motive and crime scene remain foggy. Nonetheless, Last Call is a poignant memorial for the victims, who sought companionship in spite of everything, and a generation whose world turned upside down. --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness
Discover: The grisly murders of gay men in the 1990s provide a haunting lens to consider the personal and political tensions surrounding queer life in New York.
You Are Here: A Field Guide for Navigating Polarized Speech, Conspiracy Theories, and Our Polluted Media Landscape
by Whitney Phillips , Ryan M. Milner
Professors of communication Whitney Phillips and Ryan M. Milner offer a map to understanding the toxicity of the media environment today; how it got that way; how it is part of the United States' overarching history; and what, if anything, might be done about it. You Are Here cleverly uses pollution as a metaphor throughout to describe what the authors term a media environment crisis. They draw on concrete examples of pollution, human interventions in ecological environments and climate change to illustrate and make explicit the ways society and Internet culture spread bad or toxic information.
Importantly, Phillips and Milner show that the problems of today are tied to media constructions of the 1980s, as well as parallel post-Civil War journalism practices. They highlight conspiracy theories, the history of trolling and how even those with the best intentions can inadvertently serve to amplify problematic media and voices. These historical contexts add depth to an analysis of the current moment that argues against the idea that the present day is a purely unprecedented time, divorced from any other points in U.S. history. Novel to the authors' approach is their focus on how whiteness has shaped Internet culture, naming something outright that has been identified by BIPOC in Internet spaces for years. Both of these components bolster the call for a network ethics that shifts the focus from users as individuals to how people are connected, in order to reshape media literacy itself and address the problems of the current media landscape and where it is headed. --Michelle Anya Anjirbag, freelance reviewer
Discover: Two experts in communication use ecological metaphors and examples to make the ongoing media environment crisis and its history clearer, offering coherent solutions for course correction.
Women and Other Monsters: Building a New Mythology
by Jess Zimmerman
Jess Zimmerman (Basic Witches: How to Summon Success, Banish Drama, and Raise Hell with Your Coven with Jaya Saxena) brings a fresh perspective to 11 monstrous female figures in this expansive essay collection.
Harpies, Furies, Medusa, Lamia, the Sirens, the Chimera, Charybdis, the Sphinx: these creatures and others have for centuries held iconic status beyond their original roles in Greek mythology. From the start, Zimmerman makes it clear that what she presents is not a classicist's perspective on their meaning in literature. She offers instead a survey of how these figures have entered modern consciousness and how they relate to traits that are feared in women. Using Homeric versions of the legends, the retellings by Ovid and more, Zimmerman launches into explorations of ambition, hunger, sexuality and ugliness. Traits that cultural constraints would paint as monstrous can bring women suffering, but she also illustrates how, when wielded properly, they can be a source of power. In the right hands, the characteristics that make them monstrous might also make a hero. Intimate reflections on how these traits have influenced Zimmerman's own life offer a personal touch that balances the larger cultural considerations of insults used against women in politics, or how teenage sexuality is depicted in a music video.
Fans of Circe by Madeline Miller and Rage Becomes Her by Soraya Chemaly alike will be engrossed by this insightful collection. --Kristen Allen-Vogel, information services librarian at Dayton Metro Library
Discover: A fresh look at female-coded monsters from mythology offers insight about embracing characteristics that people fear.
A Window to Heaven: The Daring First Ascent of Denali: America's Wildest Peak
by Patrick Dean
Patrick Dean's first book, A Window to Heaven: The Daring First Ascent of Denali: America's Wildest Peak, is both a compelling biography and a first-class adventure story. Showcasing Archdeacon Hudson Stuck, the unusual leader of the first expedition successfully to ascend Denali in 1913, A Window to Heaven is fascinating reading.
Stuck was born in England, spent time as a rancher in Texas, attended an Episcopal seminary in Tennessee and ultimately found his true calling in Alaska. The state's wild nature called out to Stuck, who loved outdoor pursuits, and who was "an outspoken and controversial advocate for indigenous rights." Stuck decided to climb Denali with a team that included several native Alaskans, hoping to stop the renaming of the peak, and bring worldwide attention to the decline of the Indigenous population in the wake of the Klondike gold rush. It would take more than a century for Stuck's wish to come true--Mount McKinley officially reverted to Denali in 2015--but this fiery clergyman was an early influence on the gradual process of change.
The first half of A Window to Heaven follows Stuck's amazing life, and the second half is devoted to the climb itself. Modern climbers who wish to ascend Denali are usually dropped on its lower slopes by plane. In 1913, Stuck and his team had to endure a six-week dogsled and boat journey just to reach the base of the mountain and begin their ascent. Their full journey to the summit and back took more than three months, and is an astounding tale of courage and determination. --Jessica Howard, bookseller at Bookmans, Tucson, Ariz.
Discover: This enthralling history explores the life of Archdeacon Stuck, the leader, in 1913, of the first expedition to climb Denali.
Children's & Young Adult
The Thieving Collectors of Fine Children's Books
by Adam Perry
The Thieving Collectors of Fine Children's Books is a genre-bending, heart-pounding middle-grade romp into a potential future.
Ten-year old Oliver Nelson loves books so much, he has often wished he could live inside of some of his favorites. One of his best-loved books is an extremely rare copy of The Timekeeper's Children. Unfortunately, when he returns it to the library, it gets thrown out with the garbage. Ardent book collector Mr. Pribble loved The Timekeeper's Children as a child and is determined to add it to his collection. When Pribble learns the last remaining copy of the book has gone missing from the library--and Oliver was the last to check it out--he and his wife devise a scheme to get the book back. They decide to use Alternate Reality Goggles to transport themselves and Oliver into the boy's imagination--now the only place where the book still exists--and take it for themselves.
Adam Perry (The Magicians of Elephant County) turns children's literature inside out--almost literally--in The Thieving Collectors of Fine Children's Books. Blending fantasy, sci-fi, classic adventure and a touch of metafiction, Perry's inspired work manages to meet and simultaneously subvert reader expectations. The villainous Pribbles are delightfully reminiscent of Roald Dahl antagonists, while Oliver's real world--a high-tech future where kids spend more time in alternate reality goggles than in books--has entertaining notes of the Alex Award winner Ready Player One. Additionally, the narration is full of hints, nudges and fourth wall-breaking, reminiscent of A Series of Unfortunate Events. Perry's layered approach makes for a masterpiece that feels both familiar yet wholly new. --Kyla Paterno, freelance reviewer
Discover: In this thrilling, genre-jumping novel, 10-year-old Oliver is transported into the world of his favorite book to save the story from those who would steal it.
by Mary H.K. Choi
Youthful romance has made Mary H.K. Choi (Permanent Record; Emergency Contact) a bestselling #OwnVoices author. In Yolk, she pivots effectively toward the familial, focusing the most significant of the book's relationships on two Seoul-born, San Antonio-raised sisters. Devoted audiences need not worry here about missing a love story--what lingers longest is the resonating, multifaceted story of Jayne and June Baek.
Once upon a time, the sisters were so close as to be mistaken for twins; as adolescents, their relationship devolved into relentless antagonism and occasional violence. In high school, June turned inward and studious while Jayne was more desperate for social acceptance and approval. As young women, the pair have become estranged New Yorkers. At 20, Jayne is a distressed design school student, living an hour away from her classes in a grim Brooklyn sublet. Just a block and a half from Jayne's school is June's shiny Manhattan doorman high-rise where Jayne has never been welcome--until the night June summons her. June has kept a distance from Jayne's seemingly endless dramas. Until now. June is sick. Really sick.
Like the Baek sisters, Choi is Korean-born, partially raised in Texas and then lived in New York as a young adult. While her author's note assures "This is a work of fiction," she also lays bare her "own history with disordered eating, dysmorphia, and bulimia." Her openness gives her narrative a seamless, insider fluency; her writing is consistently assured, her dialogue nimbly tuned, even her pain potently channeled through Jayne's struggles. As Choi moves the wary sisters toward reconciliation, the most difficult lesson they'll need to learn is embracing vulnerability--to discard harshness, admit need, accept help and draw strength from renewed connections. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon
Discover: Serious illness forces two Korean American sisters--once as close as twins--to confront their estrangement and rediscover the empowering strength of their sororal bond.
The Two Fridas
by Frida Kahlo , trans. by Simulingua, Inc. , illust. by Gianluca Foli
The Two Fridas is an intriguing picture book. Gianluca Foli (Wild in the City) uses a small selection of Frida Kahlo's diary entries as his text and illustrates in a manner that channels Kahlo but does not reproduce her artistic style.
Kahlo kept an illustrated journal for many years as an adult; a "fragment of her diary" included childhood memories of an imaginary friend. The Two Fridas starts with an irresistible line from this journal: "I must have been six years old when I formed an intense imaginary friendship with a girl... who was more or less my age." Frida draws an imaginary door and crosses the street to a creamery called PINZÓN. "I would dive in through the Ó in PINZÓN and TUMBLE down to the inside of the earth, where 'my imaginary friend' was always waiting for me." Some will surely think of Narnia, Alice and her adventures or other magical journeys where a child is whisked into a different world.
The text of the journal, translated from the Spanish, is straightforward, with many descriptive passages. Foli, an Italian illustrator and graphic artist, uses his knowledge of Kahlo's paintings, her love of animals and some symbols from Mexican folk culture (calaveras, or decorated skull images, are in evidence on several pages) to create haunting illustrations incorporating black and white sketches that expand to include intensely colored sections as Frida's imaginary world grows. While Foli's art is entirely original, he includes nods to Kahlo's imagery throughout. An author's note at book's end provides information about Kahlo's life, giving more information to culturally and artistically curious kids. --Melinda Greenblatt, freelance book reviewer
Discover: Find out how Frida Kahlo's childhood world influenced her artistic career in this imaginative illustrative take on her own words.